Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden / George
1942
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Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden / George

In 1941 Kawanishi was still engaged in design of an attractive float-equipped fighter, the Kawanishi N1K1, intended as a naval fighter to support an island hopping conquest in the Pacific without dependence on carriers or shore bases; in due course 98 of these fighters (Allied reporting name 'Rex') were produced. However, while their design was still in progress Kawanishi undertook a wheel-landing gear version, designated the N1K1-J Shiden (violet lightning). The prototype of the new fighter was flown on 27 December 1942 powered by the new 18-cylinder Nakajima Homare radial. Production got under way in 1943 of the N1K1-J with Homare 21 radial and an armament of two 7.7-mm nose guns and four 20-mm wing cannon (two of which were carried in underwmg fairings). Despite being plagued by constant engine troubles and an inherently weak landing gear, the Shiden was an excellent aircraft in combat, proving an equal match for the Grumman F6F Hellcat; given the reporting name 'George' by the Allies, it was widely considered to be one of Japan's best wartime fighters. Three other main production versions were produced: the N1K1-Ja with nose guns deleted and all cannon mounted inside the wings; the N1K1-Jb with underwmg racks for two 250-kg bombs; and the N1K1-Jc with racks for four 250-kg bombs. A new version, the N1K2-J, with improved landing gear, redesigned airframe structure and cleaner engine cowling, appeared during the last year of the war and proved even better than the N1K1; an instance occurred when a single Japanese pilot, Warrant Officer Konsuke Muto, fought off 12 Hellcats, shooting down four. A total of 1,435 N1K Shiden landplane fighters was produced,

Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden / George


Specification 
 MODELN1K2-J
 CREW1
 ENGINE1 x Nakajima NK9H "Homare 21", 1365kW
 WEIGHTS
    Take-off weight4000-4860 kg8819 - 10715 lb
    Empty weight2657 kg5858 lb
 DIMENSIONS
    Wingspan12.0 m39 ft 4 in
    Length9.35 m31 ft 8 in
    Height3.96 m13 ft 0 in
    Wing area23.5 m2252.95 sq ft
 PERFORMANCE
    Max. speed585 km/h364 mph
    Cruise speed365 km/h227 mph
    Ceiling10760 m35300 ft
    Range1700 km1056 miles
 ARMAMENT4 x 20mm cannons, 500kg of bombs

3-View 
Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden / GeorgeA three-view drawing (750 x 1025)

Comments1-20 21-40
Klaatu83, 21.12.2014

The Shiden holds the rare distinction of being probably the only land-based fighter to have been derived from a seaplane. It was a very formidable fighter but, as was the case with many Japanese WW-II developments, yet another case of too little and too late. For example, it is often emphasized that this fighter was superior to the Grumman F6F Hellcat. However, the Hellcat became operational in 1943 and over 10,000 were produced. In contrast the Shiden-Kai did not become available until late in 1944, only a few hundred were ever completed and few qualified pilots were available to fly them.

Ron, 01.11.2014

From Lance of the Samurai

"343rd Kokutai at Matsuyama in December of 1944. This group contained the best of Japan's remaining fighter pilots which were personally selected for participation. Consisting of three squadrons the 301st 407th and 701st hikotai this fighter unit was Japan's most proficient during the latter months of the war. The effectiveness of this unit was not solely attributable to the skill of its pilots but also resulted from the aircraft which it flew. All three squadrons were equipped with the Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden-kai ("violet lightning") model 21 fighter. These were fast highly maneuverable and heavily armed fighters. Unlike most earlier Japanese designs these aircraft also provided better armor protection for the pilot. Nicknamed the "George" by the Allies the N1K2-J was derived from an earlier float plane the N1K1 Kyofu. Entering service in late 1944 the George was capable of 365-MPH armed with its four 20-mm wing mounted cannon. In the hands of experienced combat pilots the N1K2-J was the equal to the American-made Hellcats and Corsairs it faced and was vastly superior to the aging Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero. About 400 N1K2-Js would be produced before the end of the war. The efficacy of Genda's idea was demonstrated on March 19 1945 when fifty-four aircraft from the 343rd attacked an unsuspecting and overconfident carrier strike group of F6Fs F4Us and SB2-Cs in the Kure area. In a matter of minutes the American force was shredded by Genda's elite group. The Japanese claimed the destruction of forty-eight U.S. fighters and four dive bombers vs. the loss of only sixteen of its own aircraft. On June 2 1945 a force of twenty-one N1K2-Js attacked a similarly-sized force of Corsairs. In this battle the Japanese claimed 18 victories. It was estimated that during the six month period in which the 343rd operated that a total of 170 American aircraft were downed compared to the loss of 74 Japanese pilots."

Ron, 24.09.2014

The fuselage was lengthened with the N1K2-J. Perhaps this addressed the autorotation vice of the old N1K1-J.
The tail heaviness was to be corrected by moving the engine forward or adding 2x13.2mm Type 3 MGs in the cowl but not in time for production before the war ended.

Other fighters had combat flaps, but on the Shiden they worked automatically to help avoid stalling in turns.
This ingenious system freed the pilot and gave excellent manueverability. Shidens were coming back to base with popped rivets and wrinkled surfaces after dogfights, often causing even worse results on their opponents airframes in high g combat. They could also use vertical energy tactics equally well.

It's 4 cannons were all Type 99-II high velocity weapons for great harmonized ballistics. If the N1K2-J was made after May, 1945, they were potentially the faster 750 rpm Mk 5 version.

Ron, 12.10.2013

"Following the fall of the Philippines to US forces, the Shiden was met in large numbers during the invasion of Okinawa. A Japanese military communique reported an engagement in which a unit of 34 Shidens met a force of 70 Allied fighters, destroying 20 of them against a loss of only twelve of their number." (- Pilot Friend site)

Obviously this report is from the Japanese side and Allied losses may well have included damaged as well as lost fighters. Still, the fact remains that the 'George' fighters earned the respect of their US adversaries in short order.

It would be good to find out the details of that engagement.
I don't want to assume they were Hellcats that suffered that defeat but experienced Japanese Shiden pilots are known to regard the F6F as a relatively easy kill. If someone has some info I'd be interested.

Some say the improved N1K2-J Kai was a match for the late models of the P-51! If so that would have to be with the exception of high altitude combat.

Only 415 of these were built in addition to the 1,000 plus N1K1-J Shidens before them.

Ron, 14.04.2013

Summary of N1K1-J allied flight test evaluation:

Rudder trim controls were excellent, but elevators were too light and ailerons too heavy (over 360 mph especially), so controls were unbalanced. The stick was too far forward and high for comfort. Controls for flaps, wheels and brakes were not desirable but cockpit vision was good.

Stall was 100 mph clean. If cowl flaps were closed, a serious port wing stall came without warning resulting in accelerated stall and risk of inverted spin.

Dive speed was high. It rolled and turned well for its size, but immelmans were sloppy.
It didn't handle with the confidence inspiring stability of say, a J2M Raiden.

The later N1K2-J Kai was an improvement, addressing many of the faults of the N1K1-J in this flight test.

Ron, 28.02.2012

Gerhard,
I hadn't heard anything about the the cannons on the Shiden jamming. Can you explain? Maybe it's only when fired in turns where all planes with wing cannon had this tendency.
Beyond that, I would appreciate more info.

Gerhard Frenz Jr., 26.02.2012

One of Japans top 3 fighters. I would say A6M, KI-84, N1K2 in that order, I rate it that way considering all aspects of aircraft mentioned. N1K2 had 3 main problems, weak landing gear, engine problems, and guns prone to jamms. If the plane worked perfectly, it may have been the best Japan produced. Over all I would rate the plane at a 8.5 rating.

dafag, 21.06.2011

I can perhaps excuse it with US pilots misidentifying them as Tojos or something but that's embarrassing to me. I simply can't believe that.

, 21.06.2011

Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden / George

Ron, 27.04.2011

The oft mentioned combat of Muto in the above text begs comment.
It is more accurate to add that he was not alone. N1Ks and F6Fs of comparable numbers were engaged and he did have 4 victories as related but his unit had his back.

Ron, 19.03.2011

Gus,
It was a great book for it's time. I read it in the 60s. I venture to say I'm not the only one here who already read it.
Today it has its detractors (not directed at Sakai so much as the co-author). This is true of many books from that period, like William Green's series, etc...

Gus, 07.03.2011

read Saburo Sakai's book, 'Samurai' which mentions this particular plane and nearly all the other Japanese fighters.....

Gus, 07.03.2011

read Saburo Sakai's book, 'Samurai' which mentions this particular plane and nearly all the other Japanese fighters.....

Ron, 20.02.2011

If VF-85 lost 8 or 9 F4Us in 2 fights with N1Ks in June 1945, and only 3 Georges were lost, why are these not in the US Naval win-loss records? That's about 3 to 1 ratio in favor of the Shiden.
I can perhaps excuse it with US pilots misidentifying them as Tojos or something but that's embarrassing to me. I simply can't believe that.

Ron, 14.12.2010

1 kill vs 3 loss ratio was the confirmed record of Genda's outfit in the last months of WW 2. That's counting the Allied fighters of all types, not just US Navy and Marines where they had parity. It doesn't count ordinary N1K Shiden outfits.
So Spitfires, P-51s, and P-47s must have done better against Genda and his elite group of pilots than the US F6Fs, FMs, and F4Us did.

Ron, 29.11.2010

I am mystified by the lack of loss the USN records to the N1K Shiden 'George'. Historians credit the crack IJN 343rd with near parity of 1 to 1 ratio more or less vs the VF-82, -9, VBF-17, -VMF-23 between 12/1944 and 3/1945 and others in April. US Navy says 35 Shidens were shot down without loss to US Navy fighters 1944-45. Granted other less skilled Shiden outfits would score less than these did. Does anyone have the answer for the discrepancy? Perhaps unidentified or misidentified Japanese fighters were credited. The overall Shiden ratio is perhaps 13 losses per victory like the A6M according to Wikipedia.

Mykola, 18.10.2010

An ideal plane for dogfihts!

Ron, 09.08.2010

I found another detail online: In tight turns, if the stick were handled roughly the N1K1-J might flip over and auto rotate making it not so pilot friendly. Then he could lose control and spin. I still don't know about the Kai.
Still it could out turn a Hellcat if the pilot took care, due to its combat-flap system in addition to it's wing-loading edge. But a good F6F pilot could still get in a burst early.

Ron, 09.08.2010

I was reading Pacific Fighters by Flight Journal about the George. Aces of the fighter were commenting on the N1K1-J tendency to autorotate. This handling problem could lead to an uncontrollable spin. Was this related to being tail heavy? With the N1K2-J redesign, I wonder if that fault was addressed successfully.
If anyone is familiar with this (with any fighter), any info would be welcome.

Jackie, 08.08.2010

the N1K Shiden was truly a deadly opponent to the Allied fighters such as the F6F Hellcat and the F4U Corsair. It was one of the finest Japanese fighters of World War II. It was originally designed as a floatplane fighter but by 1943 aircraft of this type were not needed anymore. It has 4 20mm cannons and good armor protection. It will have been a very effective bomber destoryer had it not have a poor rate of climb and reduced engine performance at high altitude.

1-20 21-40

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